Snowshoeing at Frontenac Provincial Park

Boxing Day turned out to be a great day for snowshoeing. The weather was crisp and clear and the sun was shining bright. If anything, it was a bit on the cold side, with a fairly strong wind and temperatures between -10 and -15C.  The choice of clothing was primarily made based on the cold temperature and windchill in combination with the fact that we would be hiking rather than running. We opted for multiple layers including snow pants, winter jackets and winter boots. It became clear within the first 20 minutes that we had both overdressed. It’s always a fear that you’re going to end up a couple of hours away from shelter and feel frozen to the bone. Turns out it is much worse to overdress and sweat through multiple layers from being too hot. I was thinking ahead when I packed my headlamp in case we were out beyond sunset. Unfortunately, I forgot the headlamp  in the car!


From the parking lot we followed the Corridor Trail for a couple of kilometres until we met up with the  Arkon Trail. The Arkon Trail was a bit less travelled and it was much tougher going in the deep powder. We crossed over some small bridges and up and down some valleys past some beaver ponds. imageIt was about 2pm by the time we arrived at the turn off for the Bufflehead Trail. At this point, I decided I would take the turn off and Diane would continue along the Arkon Trail.


The plan would be for us to eventually meet up back at the parking lot, hopefully before 4pm when the park closed. Diane definitely picked the harder route since nobody had been this far out since the heavy  snowfall on Christmas Day. The snow was fairly deep, sometimes up to her knees, which made it tough going at times and at certain points the markers were set further apart and difficult to locate. imageAs she got deeper into the trail, it was confirmed that there has not been anyone else yet through section, but a lot of animal tracks going every direction. She had one deer sighting. She carefully navigated her way around the lakes and streams. There was one small water crossing where she couldn’t find the boardwalk and crossed over the ice from where she was then able to see the edge of the snow-covered boardwalk a little ways down. Diane is sure she was sometimes off trail, but just kept aiming for the little blue trail markers.image

The sun looked very low and shadows long – yikes! Diane knew that she had to keep moving as if it got dark she wouldn’t be able to find the markers and would be in real danger with no trail to follow. She was eagerly looking for where Arkon East trail intersected with Bufflehead again as there would be a trail to follow from there – it took 2 hrs to complete the loop above Bufflehead, but she made it. By the way, her phone was low on battery too (not the safest situation to be in). The remainder of the trek to Salmon Lake Road was much more comfortable, but during this section Diane decided to swap out her sunglasses for her headlamp only to find out that the batteries were also low. What a scary thought – as she may have been dependent on that lamp if she got caught in the dark earlier. For me, I had the advantage of some ski tracks to follow as I made my way along ridge line until I met up with the Eastern part of the Arkon Trail. It wasn’t long before the sun started getting low in the sky and the trees were casting long shadows on the snow. It panicked both of us, knowing that the sun was almost setting and we still had at least an hour or two to get back to the parking lot. imageWhat started as a 4 hour snowshoe hike ended up being closer to 6 hours. The final hour was in complete darkness, but thankfully by this time Diane and I had met up again as we turned onto Salmon Lake Road. It took the entire drive back to Kingston before I finally began to warm up and I shivered the entire way.




In spite of all the adventure, the stillness and beauty of Frontenac in the winter left us with a lasting impression and we look forward to more visits soon.



Training at Kanapolis State Park, Kansas

Diane and I spent the summer trying out new trail running venues almost every weekend. I am happy to report that even though I am now on flight test assignment in Wichita, I was able to continue with this tradition. I started by Googling the various trail race locations and I eventually found a great article from the Wichita Eagle (May 2016) that is titled  Five great hiking trails within two hours of Wichita.  This article proved to be a great resource and my first stop yesterday (Aug 27) was at Kanapolis State Park. Kanapolis is about a 1.5 hour drive from NW Wichita and is close to Salina (I’ll be visiting Salina again in a few weeks, but for other reasons). Kanapolis State Park is home to the  Rockin K Trail Race which is held in early April. This race consists of a 50-miler and a trail marathon.

The drive north toward Salina was a nice trip on I-135 and was pretty uneventful until I ran into a huge line of thunderstorms that created some pretty strong winds and heavy rain. On the drive up there, I made two mistakes:

  1. I forgot my map at home and relied on my Blackberry’s GPS map. This is usually OK, but when you enter an area with no cell service, you keep the origin and current location points, but lose all the map data.
  2. Once I lost the map data, I inadvertently passed by turn off the main paved road that was to lead me to the park office. Once I missed my turn I turned around and came back a bit, turning into a gravel road that I thought might lead to the park. Well, as it turned out, this gravel road led me out into the middle of the prairie, miles from anywhere and without cell service. On top of that, the heavy rains had made the gravel road very soft and it was some white-knuckle driving on that little detour! The road was so soft that my tires actually left ruts and I was afraid to stop for fear that I would get stuck in the middle of nowhere. Thankfully, I eventually found a safe place to turn around and I made my way back to the main road. The lesson learned there is not to venture into remote areas all by myself.

Once I eventually made it to the park office, I checked in and paid my $5 day visitor fee. When I asked about trail run recommendations, they suggested to head to Trailhead C and to the Buffalo Track Canyon area. I was warned however that if I kept on the orange trail loop I would be facing some fairly deep water crossings. When I asked what “fairly deep” meant, I was told to expect water up to chest level. Yikes! Thankfully, they also gave me an option that would avoid the deepest crossing and return via the purple trail.


View of Trailhead C


I started out on the trails and was faced with a bit of a climb and right away started to notice how sand the soil was. It was almost a pale orange/red colour. The scenery was beautiful and thankfully, the temperature was only about 70 deg F.

IMG_20170827_092532 (1)

Start of trail was quite beautiful

The downside of all the heavy rainfall was that the trails themselves were actually quite greasy and it took a lot of effort just to just stay upright.

Eventually, I made it to the water crossing. Thankfully, I avoided the deep one, but even this one came up well past my brand new trail shoes. Getting across was easy, but scrambling up the opposite bank was challenging due to the mud.


Christening some new trail shoes!


Water crossing area


Got to see some sunflowers!


IMG_20170827_104718 (1)

Interesting geology

Unfortunately, I picked a day when the trails weren’t their most runnable, but it was still an amazing experience. I hope to head back here at least a couple more times before the race next spring. Looking forward to sharing this place with Diane. Oh, and before I forget, here is a list of wildlife spotted during this run:

  1. Great blue heron
  2. White-tailed deer
  3. Wild turkeys
  4. Hawks … and assorted other birds






MEC Ottawa Race 4 – Gatineau (Aug 6)

MEC Ottawa Race 4 consisted of four events: 50 km, 30 km, 20 km and 10 km. It was located in Gatineau Park at Camp Fortune. It worked out well for us because Diane happened to be in Ottawa for the week leading up to the race. Diane registered for the 30k and I registered for the 20k. The weekend started with a long drive by myself up to Ottawa. The 401 was closed around Port Hope, so I elected to take the more scenic route along Hwy 7. It was a long drive and in spite of the long weekend traffic, I managed to make it to Holiday Inn in about 5 hours and 20 minutes. We had a nice dinner at Lone Star next to the hotel and headed straight to bed.

On Saturday morning we drove to downtown Ottawa and parked underground at city hall (a bargain at $2 for the entire day). We took a nice walk over to Bank St for some shopping at Sports 4 and then headed off to Bier Markt on Sparks St for lunch. After lunch we spent some time wandering around the locks at the foot of the Rideau Canal and headed over to Byward Market, including the cafe that was made famous by President Obama’s visit. Remeber the Obama cookies?


Trudeau Cookies


Rideau Canal and Ottawa River


On Sunday morning we woke up bright and early and drove to Camp Fortune. It is a ski resort in the winter and in the summer it serves outdoor adventure seekers with activities such as mountain biking, trail running and zip-lining. The 30k race started with the 50k group at 7:45. The racers headed up the ski hill and did a loop around Camp Fortune before they headed out on the main course. I waved at Diane as she ran by the start line and she saw me too and waved back.


Start line at Camp Fortune


Start of the 50k and 30k races



Camp Fortune Chalet


Racers at the start

My race started 15 minutes later at 8:00. It was a long climb out up along the ski hills for the first 3 km until the first aid station. I met my goal of not crashing during the first km of the race and managed to fall on my face at 1.5 km. One of my fellow racers consoled me by saying that she almost fell over during the group stretching and warm-up at the start line. I wasn’t in bad shape after all. I just had some scrapes on my knee and my elbow was bleeding a bit. It’s funny because we had actually freaked ourselves out a bit by looking at the course elevation map with all the hills and steep grades, but in the end, the course ended up being way more run-able than we thought. There were indeed a lot of steep climbs and descents along the Gatineau ridge line, but there was also a lot of time spent on gravel camp roads. The organizers had to do some last-minute re-routing of the course due to heavy rains and erosion leading up to race day.


From about 5km to 9km it was a long, steady downhill into a valley. I was even fortunate enough to make a friend during that part of the course. Andrew and I stayed in front of or behind one another for about 4km and then we just struck up a conversation and raced side-by-side for about 30 minutes. We chatted about trail races and he offered me some beef jerky somewhere around aid station #2. Chatting with Andrew, I learned about a fall race in Quebec called the Mad Trapper. That is definitely something I will  need to check out next year.  The other thing that I noticed was that Andrew had some fly paper stuck to the top of his cap. There were no deer flies this day because it was a bit too cool but Andrew said that he runs Gatineau frequently and was saying that he would not have hesitated to forfeit his $20 entry fee if the bugs were going to be bad.

Diane actually thought she was lost on the course and even contemplated turning back at one point. It just happened that the course markers were a long ways apart at that point. She says she had a lot of fun and really enjoyed the climbs. In the end, Diane finished second in her age group.


Happy to be at the finish!

For me, it was a solid run and at the end I felt way better than I did after the Albion Grind. The main difference was that it was a cooler day and the fact that I managed my nutrition much better. I stuck to my plan and took my first gel at the 50 minute mark and then had some more gels/chews at 30-minute intervals after that. The other thing that seemed to work was that I took two electrolyte capsules per hour (S!Caps).

The nice thing about finishing the race earlier than anticipated was that we got an early start on the long drive home. We took the 401 home and stopped-off at a couple of craft breweries in Kingston. First stop was at Riverhead Brewing Company which is just south of the 401. We first visited Riverhead on Canada Day about a month ago and we really enjoyed their Tropical IPA. The second stop was a small place near Bath called MacKinnion Brothers Brewing Company. We first learned about MacKinnon from Diane’s coach Derrick Spafford. It was a bit out of the way, but it was a gem and a great example of a small local business. They have a small shed where the sampling and bottling occurs and I was pleased to learn that they grow the hops right there on the farm.


MacKinnon Bros. Brewing Co.


Brewing area and outside seating


Tractor seats for bar stools


Barn and kegs


Diane finds a new friend


Gorgeous brewing setup inside the shed

It turns out that MacKinnon Bros. has their own outdoor music festival next weekend. It would have been great to attend, but won’t be possible since it is a bit far to venture away on my last weekend at home before moving to Wichita for a 9-month work assignment.

All-in-all, it was a great weekend and adds to our year of exploring eastern Ontario. The trail races and snowshoe races have been a really good excuse to get out and explore.



Albion Grind

This was the first year for a new trail race. The Albion Grind is an add-on to the Saturday 5 Peaks race at Albion Hills Conservation Area. The Saturday race was a big event with about 700 runners competing in 7k and 14k distances. The Sunday event was a much smaller, more relaxed affair with just over a hundred runners competing in half marathon, 3 hour and 6 hour events (plus some relays).

We chose to run the 3 hour event that gave us a chance to run as many laps as possible within three hours. It was a 7 km course, but only an integer number of laps could count toward your finish.  In some ways, it was a bit of a strange setup because the half and the 3 hr are virtually the same race since most people in the 3 hr will complete three laps anyways.

Last Sunday we actually went to Albion to try our hand at navigating the course. Diane managed to get lost and her Garmin trace looked like an ant colony with paths going out in every possible direction (see below)


Diane’s ant colony training run pre-race on July 16

Today was much better and they had the course well-marked with flags and directional arrows.  In spite of the course being marked with orange flags, I did see at least three people having to backtrack onto the course. I think the problem was that there were big white permanent arrows marking the various trails that at some points conflicted with the Albion Grind route. As long as you followed the instructions to keep the orange flags on your left, navigation was a breeze.


Image courtesy Sue Sitki


Image courtesy Sue Sitki

At the start, there were  lot of people who sprinted to get ahead because the single track started within the first 400m. The first single track portion was not terribly steep, but it was a long, gradual climb. The first aid station was at the 2km mark, but there was no need to stop there on the first loop. After crossing the bridge into the North trails, it was a steep climb with more sections of windy single track. A long wide trail led back down the hill to the aid station. The aid station was well-stocked with water, Gatorade, Coke, cookies, PB&J sandwiches, boiled potatoes, gummies and M&M’s. I soon named it the Mandarin of the Bush.


Image courtesy Sue Sitki (

After the aid station, there was a long, steep uphill, followed by a steady descent past the splash pad and to the finish. I usually stopped at the 2nd aid station (pictured above) and fueled up with Coke and boiled potatoes.

Diane signed up for this race for fun because she wanted to get back into some races and to try a timed course for the first time. We’d been trying out various trails every weekend so far this summer, but it was nice to get out in the company of some like-minded people and enjoy the sense of competition. She went in with a relaxed attitude to have fun and to get in a longer training run, but it was a bonus that things held together and she ran a strong race. Diane and her coach had discussed running the first lap at a ‘comfortable’ pace, but she made an instinctual decision to start out a bit faster and take a bit of a risk. By the time the second and third lap came around she was pushing hard and running by feel, but not really knowing how well she was doing. She finished the first three laps in about 2:26 and decided to continue on with a fourth lap since it was too early to stop the training run. As she got within earshot of the finish line on the fourth lap, she could hear that the award ceremonies were starting. It was a good thing that she made it to the finish before the ceremonies concluded because she ended up getting the third place award for females. As it turns out, all of the top three finishers completed three laps and Diane was the only one to continue for a fourth lap.


Image courtesy Sue Sitki



Image courtesy Sue Sitki

Memories from the race:

  • getting compliments on my Creemore Vertical Challenge shirt that is now a collector’s item
  • Diane rounding a sharp corner and almost colliding with the photographer
  • encouragement from the aid station volunteers
  • nice race swag, but what are we going to do with these growlers?


Flashback Fridays – Fond Memories of Comrades 2015 “Up-Run”

With Comrades 2017 less than two days away we thought it time to look back on some great memories from two years ago.


As soon as we got off the plane in Durban, we knew we were in for something big.


On race day it wasn’t long after Phil’s catered roadside breakfast in Kloof that the front-runners came through. Note that the winner was not in this pack.


Hot afternoon along Umlaas Road


Diane and Nadia pulling into the Complete Marathons support station at Umlaas Road. They didn’t have time to stay for the Braii.


Finally made it to the finish at the cricket field in Pietermaritzburg. Who would have thought that only minutes later I was carrying Diane into the world’s largest mobile medical facility (outside of a warzone)? …. a rather dramatic way to get re-hydrated.


Safari time

Sulphur Springs Trail Race

This was our second year at Sulphur Springs Trail Race in Ancaster. Last year was about 30 deg C, but yesterday turned out to be a beautiful overcast day of about 15 deg. It was a special race this year because they added 100 km and 200 mile distances.


Start/finish line

The trail starts with a long descent into the Dundas Valley and consists of a big 20 km loop through the conservation area. Diane and I ran the 10 km race which is just a partial loop, but the 200 milers started on Thursday at noon and had 72 hours to complete 16 laps.


Course Map

On Thursday when the race started, it rained all afternoon and by the time we got there on Saturday the course had only partially dried up. There were still some mucky sections … nothing like the mud-fest at Limberlost last year, but just enough cover your shoes and the lower half of your body.

Diane was quite happy that she was able to drop down from the 25 k race at the last minute. It gave here a chance get back on the trails and run a short enough distance that she could push herself a bit. She started out somewhat cautiously in the first half, but caught her stride, ending with a sprint to the finish.


The other benefit of going to an Ontario Ultra and Trail Series race was that we got to see some familiar faces. Diane got to meet up with some friends from the Thornhill RR that were running their first trail race (and ultra). She may even have some new running partners now. We also saw Ziya who as running his first ultra. The funny part was when we met up with Filomena, who was the sister of one of the Stoney Creek runners we met on the Mudcat race course two weeks ago (she somehow recognized me from my blog post). Last, but not least, we saw Vertical Pierre from the Creemore Vertical Challenge.


First Trail Race (and ultra)


Vertical Pierre fuels up

The side benefit of running the 10 k was that it gave us time to volunteer for a while in the afternoon and then go and shoot some race photos. All in all it was a great day!.


Mudcat Marathon

This was the first year ever for the Mudcat Marathon. I came across this race while searching for a spring marathon. I was a bit tired of big city road races and this race looked very appealing to me. It takes place in Haldimand County and is located in the town of Dunnville. Dunnville is located at the delta of the Grand River, along the shores of Lake Erie. I must admit, prior to this weekend, I had never been to Dunnville before. We often go to Port Dover for a nice Perch dinner, or to Niagara, but have never really ventured much in between. I am very familiar with the Grand River, having grown up near Cambridge and my dad even used to sit on the Grand River Conservation Authority (GRCA). So I finally took the plunge and registered .. less than a week before the race. I had been following along with updates on their Facebook page and Race Director Sheryl was always quick to answer any questions I posted.


Based on lessons learned from previous marathons, I actually printed out a race map to carry with me. I even went as far as creating my own turn-by-turn directions. This lesson is based on the fact that at many marathons, you can’t count on the route markers, water stations etc.. to still be there if you are one of the lucky ones at the back of the pack. As it turned out, this was not an issue as all major decision point along the route were well-marked and even manned by smiling and friendly volunteers.

Race Expo and Pasta Dinner

We were fortunate enough to be able to take the afternoon off on Friday, so we made the drive to Dunnville and attended the race expo and pasta dinner. Since I was so late registering for the race, we weren’t able to get accommodations in Dunnville so we ended up staying at the Best Western in Welland (it was only about 30 minutes away). The race expo was nice and the kit pickup was efficient. I even bought a race hat as a souvenir.

The pasta dinner was amazing. They had spaghetti with sauce, salad, rolls and pies for dessert. This was a great way to kick off the weekend. After the pasta dinner, we took a drive and checked out the starting point for the race at Knight’s Beach Resort.


Race Day

It was an early start on Saturday. We had to get up at about 4:15 in order to get ready and leave for Dunnville at 5am. In the end we got off to a bit of a late start and didn’t leave until closer to 5:30. Fortunately, the rain showers that had been predicted all week held off and it had the looks of a great day. It was about 10 deg C in the morning and reached about 16 or so in the afternoon. We arrived at the Lions Park at about 6am and I boarded the shuttle bus to Knight’s Beach.


Shuttle bus to Knight’s Beach


They had many departure times to the start

After getting dropped off at Knight’s beach it was a short wait until race start. They had us waiting inside the restaurant and games room. It was a nice, comfortable place to stage the race start and there were even nice indoor washrooms. At the race briefing, RD Sheryl mentioned that she had envisioned having 50 people at this inaugural marathon, but in reality it looked closer to 150. The actual race start began with a simple countdown from ten to one and then we were off.

The Race

The first 4 km of the course was a tour along the Lake Erie shoreline. It was a flat, winding road past some pretty cottages. I noticed that some of the homes were starting to adorn themselves for Canada’s birthday celebration and I was impressed by a cute fieldstone house with a massive Canada 150 banner.

After turning north, we spent some time cruising along some rural roads. Some were paved, but most were gravel and although they had the access points along the route blocked off, there was little traffic at 7am anyways. Along Olivet Road we ran past Mt. Olivet United Church where there was an amazing aroma from the lilacs in full bloom. There were water stations every three kilometers, where we were greeted by happy, smiling volunteers in blue t-shirts. Some of the other interesting sites along the first leg of the race was a huge solar farm. It was filled with massive panels pointing up at the sky. In contrast, we were also in the shadow of an array of wind turbines. Thankfully it was a calm morning and the blades were stationary.

At around 14km, we turned up River Road and got to see our first glimpses of the Grand River. There were lots of rolling hills along this part of the route and this is where I saw the first bit of traffic since the start. I might have seen about half a dozen cars along River Road, but they stayed well clear of the runners. At around 17.5 km, I was greeted by Diane waving at the side of the road. I don’t know how she managed, but she navigated by herself all over Haldimand County to follow me along during the race. This was no small feat since she had to find parallel routes to travel since the race course was technically closed to traffic. Then there was the Grand River itself, where the only places to cross were near the finish in Dunnville and at the halfway point in Cayuga.


Diane stops at Timmies to plan her driving route


Diane gets to see her runner for the first time

Once we reached Cayuga, we crossed the bridge over the Grand River and headed back down the other side to the finish in Dunnville. In my head I had the idea that the turn in Cayuga marked the beginning of the final home stretch. I suppose this is technically true, but that final stretch along County  17 and Highway 3 was 21 km long. Diane met me a second time in Cayuga and she ran along with me for a few kilometers before heading back to the car. At every stop along the way she had a chance to chat with the volunteers and she was impressed by how warm and friendly everyone was.


Finally made it to Cayuga!


Made it to the half way mark and time for  walk break

Along the way between Cayuga and Dunnville we got to meet up with some crazy people. Diane and I got passed by a couple of ladies and the one instantly took a liking to Diane since they were both similar in stature (she may have even been shorter than Diane). They seemed to be part of some running group from Stony Creek and they had matching t-shirts and even a support crew at the side of the road that gave us some oranges and apples. Some while later I also got passed by Joe from the Stoney Creek group. He had his own cheering section as well as a minivan with his daughter and grandkids would pop up from time to time. Joe asked the question “… why the hell are we doing this?” My only answer was “… because of how great it will feel after we have finished this damn race”. At that point Joe had a simple goal which was to get to the finish and find a place to sit down. I must admit that I too contemplated sitting down for a break a few times, but I knew that if I did I would never be able to get up again. We did have some comic relief when we passed by a mailbox and I pointed out the family name ‘Barnfart’ ….. it doesn’t seem quite as funny now as it did 30 km into a marathon. At around 31 km I was met by Diane again and this time she handed my a bottle of Coke. By that point, it was nice to get some sugar in me. I drank about half of it between 31 km and 35 km, then put it away. When I pulled it out again at 38 km, the rest of the Coke had gone flat, but it was a godsend at that point because I am not sure my stomach could have handled the carbonation. The other trick I played on myself was that it was really a 40 km race. I knew that about 40 – 41km , I would see the giant ‘Muddy the Mudcat’ statue and the run to the finish at 42.2 km would be about the same as I would have to walk to get back to the car anyways. Diane met me at around 40 km and she ran me in to the finish.


Almost there!


I was not hallucinating … there really was a giant catfish.

After crossing the finish line I was given my medal and got a great big hug from RD Sheryl. I am surprised she wanted to touch me at that point because I was all sweaty and salt-stained, but it sure felt great.


Earned this medal!


Got to pose with my personal race crew.

After getting the medal, my first question was ‘where do I go to use this complimentary drink ticket affixed to the bottom of my race bib?’ The first volunteer didn’t know, but she sent me over the gentleman handing out the post-race goodie bags. He was wearing an Optimist Club shirt an coincidentally, the drinks were being served just down the street (within sight) at the local Optimist Club. This was a big deal to me since from about 30 km onward, all I could think about was the nice, cold beer I was going to have after I finished the race. We just snuck in under the wire because when we got to the Optimist Club, they were already cleaning the place up and loading the remaining cases of beer into the back of a van. Thankfully, they popped one open for me and let us sit down inside the hall for a while to relax.


One of the best-tasting beers ever


The inaugural Mudcat Marathon was an amazing race experience. On a personal note, I was testing the theory that it is better to enter a marathon slightly under-trained, yet structurally sound versus being over-trained. Thus did prove to be true since my longest run in training was Around the Bay at 30 km and since then I have been undergoing some physiotherapy to deal with some hip and back issues. I have now discovered the joys of a lacrosse ball and a foam roller.

Other than that, I can truly say that it was amazing to see Race Director Sheryl and the team pull together as a community and to host such an amazing event. I am proud to say that I completed the very first Mudcat Marathon and hope to return again next year.


Around the Bay Road Race

2017 marks the 123rd edition of the Around the Bay Road Race in Hamilton. It is basically a triangular-shaped 30 km course that loops around Hamilton Harbour. The race starts at First Ontario Place and the first 10 km was basically straight out along Burlington Street through the industrial part of the city. This part of the course had some interesting smells as we ran past some of the local steel mills. It was a net downhill, with a few ups and downs as we traversed some overpasses.

The second leg of the course was a straight and flat Northbound section that took us along Beach Boulevard. One of the most welcoming sights occurred when  passing the retirement home where the residents sat outside waving and playing marching music. Shortly thereafter we reached the 15 km halfway mark and crossed the lift-bridge going over the channel to Lake Ontario. Apparently, Around the Bay is timed to coincide with the end of winter, just before the shipping season begins.

The final leg of the course found us turning West along North Shore Boulevard, heading back toward downtown. This was a nice residential area with some rolling hills that culminates with the famous Valley Inn Road hill. The course had to be modified during the past two year’s races because of some construction along the CN rail line. Turning off Plains Road, it was a nice downhill into the valley, but it was a steep climb back up the other side. After we climbed back out of the valley, it was a nice downhill for the final 3 km back to First Ontario Place. It was exciting to run down the ramp into the arena and sprint toward the finish line at centre ice.


Starting line on York St.

Interesting tidbits:

  • Parking in the underground lot beneath Jackson Square is only $3 and is is the closest lot to First Ontario Place
  • Our friend John, whom we met during the snowshoe racing series. He found us at around 3 km and we stayed pretty close to him for the majority of the race
  • Stonemill Slow Crafted Bakehouse was a new sponsor this year. They provided amazing ly fresh bagels after the race. They even awarded the last place runner a year’s supply of bread.
  • CN was another great sponsor. They provided nice red hats and t-shirts for all the volunteers.

Meeting up with John after the race

New Snowshoes and Ice on Bond Lake

It was exciting to get my new Dion 121 snowshoes a couple of weeks ago. Storing them for the summer would have been a real letdown, alas .. there was snow to be found. Last Saturday, we made our way up to the Simcoe County Forest North of Barrie and found that the conditions were slightly on the crusty side, but still pretty good for so late in the season.


New snowshoes!

There seem to be many tracts of forest, all with nice loops of trail. We even managed to find the official parking area (by accident). It felt great to be out on the trails again after a somewhat disappointing winter in terms of snow. There were lots of people out walking their dogs and there were even several people out on fat bikes. We were told that the tract of land just north of where we were was even hillier.


Found an old barn foundation

First trail run of the season was an easy 5.5 km out-and-back on the Oak Ridges Trail. We got a late start at 7:30 on Tuesday, but by the time we were back in the car at 8:20, it wasn’t even totally dark yet. Days are getting longer and the weather is getting warmer, but there was still some pretty good ice cover on Bond Lake.


Ice on Bond Lake

I am sure it won’t be long before we are actually running the trail around the lake again. Really looking forward to that!

Dion Ganaraska Snowshoe Race

Everyone can thank us for bringing back all of this beautiful weather when we returned from our Western Caribbean cruise yesterday afternoon. All the way home during our flight, I was looking out the airplane window waiting for my first glimpse of snow. It wasn’t until we hit Northern Pennsylvania (somewhere around Erie) that I caught my first glimpse of a white landscape below. The problem was that as soon as we crossed lake Erie, the ground started looking rather brown again. At home in the GTA, there were remnants of a snowfall from last weekend, but almost all of the snow was gone and the temperatures were hovering around 10 deg C.

This morning when we made the drive East to the Ganaraska Forest Centre near Port Hope, we were greeted with the most snow of any race in the snowshoe series yet this winter. This race had been advertised as both the longest and the hilliest in the Dion Ontario Snowshoe Series. Erin, the one of the race directors described the course as an 8 km ‘lollipop’, with a 2 km trek along the stick, followed by a 4 km loop around the tasty (but hilly) candy, and finishing with a final 2 km back down the stick to the start/finish. In spite of the warm temperatures (~7 deg at race time) and strong sun, the snow held up rather well and there were even some fairly deep sections up near the top. It was definitely the best snow conditions of any race so far this winter.


Race directors Joe and Erin

We had intended to take time and do a good, long warm-up before the race, but the parking lots and park roads were all quite icy, so all we could manage was a couple of laps on snowshoes around the field adjacent to the start line. The way out was basically one long climb until the 4 km point at the top of the lollipop. The 2km trail at the start and finish was double track and the 4km loop around the candy was single track.

At about the 2 km point, I was running with some of the ladies from the Whitby group and things were going fairly well, but then they started talking about BBQ-ing and I needed to make a quick getaway. That was way too early in the race to be dreaming about food. At the 3 km point on the way out I actually caught up to Diane, which was a first for me in a snowshoe race. She was walking up one of the long grades (like everybody), but I could tell she wasn’t having her best race. On the way back, we were rewarded with a long downhill that was about 2 km. I kept wanting to take a walk break, but wasn’t able to convince myself to stop at a point where gravity was being my friend for once. At the final turn back onto the final 2 km leg, we were greeted by one of the guys from St. John’s Ambulance who was there to encourage us and make sure we turned the correct direction. It was really nice to be able to cross the finish line with Diane. In spite of not having a great race, she was there to cheer me on.


Finish Line

It was another great race in the series. My only disappointment was that my snowshoe nemesis, the ‘tuxedo shirt guy’ failed to show up today. I was all psyched-up to compete with tuxedo shirt guy again because we always seem to finish within a minute of each other at these races (this year and last). I guess we are now tied!


Some special moments from today:

  • A gang of people wearing tutus (and a guy in a sequined skirt?)
  • Winning the ‘husband and wife who crossed the finish line together’ award
  • Winning another door prize (Diane and I now have a complete place setting of Dion Snowshoe Series metal cups)
  • Having people sing happy birthday to me after the race and getting to the end only to realize they didn’t know my name (they addressed me by my bib number instead, which was rather fitting I think)
  • Seeing some new people who had never even put on snowshoes before, getting ready for their first race
  • Seeing some of the same friendly faces we recognized from previous races

Thanks again to Joe and Erin for directing another fantastic race. It was a great excuse to get outdoors and spend some time in the sun.

See you at Red Barn in a couple of weeks!